2023 Alison Woolla Award honours both community and local government leaders

Published: 17th October 2023

A passionate educator, campaigner and speaker together with a southeast Queensland council have been announced as the winners of the Local Government Association of Queensland’s (LGAQ) annual award for local leadership in preventing domestic and family violence (DFV). 

For the first time, the Alison Woolla Award has been shared across two categories to recognise both community members and local government representatives for their contributions to the prevention of DFV. 

Redland City Council been named this year’s local government winner for its vocal advocacy for a comprehensive response to domestic and family violence and actively championing the cause to raise awareness and funding for critical intervention.  

Through its actions, Redland City Council has aided to the delivery of desperately needed frontline services and crisis support. 

In January 2020, the Maybanke crisis accommodation complex became a safe haven for Redland Coast women and children escaping family violence. Redland City Council’s fundraising has delivered four new accommodation units, a children's play area and the provision of specialised support workers.  

Diner en Rouge, Redland City Council successful fundraiser hosted by Mayor Karen Williams, continues to be the key driver of funds for the Maybanke crisis accommodation complex. The event brings together community, government and business leaders and to-date has raised more than $455,000. 

Expanding beyond their impact within the community, Redland City Council also sets an example as an employer. It was one of the first local governments in Australia to implement workplace strategies to support employees who may be affected by violence or abuse.   

“I want to applaud the leadership of Mayor Karen Williams and CEO Andrew Chesterman for their stewardship in making a tangible difference in the number of DFV services available within the Redland,” LGAQ President Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said. 

“The LGAQ launched this award in 2020 to recognise an outstanding individual following in Alison Woolla’s footsteps – who was both a councillor and a DFV pioneer - and it is fitting this year to expand the award into two categories to reflect the work being done to tackle DFV.” 

Former police officer and founder of  LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation Ben Bjarnesen has been awarded the community category, taking home a $5000 bursary. 

In recognition of their long-standing commitment to addressing domestic and family violence both in the community and their own organisation, Redland City Council has won the local government category. 

Described as a fierce advocate, Ben Bjarnesen champions for improved services for LGBTQ+ victims of crime and domestic violence after discovering a gap in services after experiencing abuse himself within a same-sex relationship. He believes that all people, no matter what their sexuality or gender identity, deserve the right to live a life free from domestic violence and abuse. 

Ben is recognised both nationally and internationally for his commitment and leadership in improving relationships between police and LGBTQ+ communities. He was one of the founding members of the Queensland Police Service LGBTI Support Network which was the first of its kind in a Queensland Government department.  

In 2020, he founded the LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day which has now been recognised in 17 countries with over 1100 organisations and individuals having taken the foundation’s pledge and having a social media reach of over 1.29 million in just over two years.   

“Ben embodies and enacts the spirit of the Alison Woolla Award. He challenges the status quo and is actively working to break down barriers ensuring all victims have equal access to support,” Mayor Jamieson said.

About the award 

The award honours the legacy of the late Alison Woolla, a former Mayor of Aurukun and dynamic reform leader, who provided support for members of her community when they were experiencing abuse, opening her doors and inviting them to stay with her. 

This year there were two categories: 

  • Category one: specifically for local government, mayors, elected members, CEOs and council officers only. This category provides an opportunity for LGAQ members to share and showcase their leadership in championing the prevention of DFV. The winner will receive a trophy commemorating their win. No bursary will be awarded in this category.   
  • Category two: provides the opportunity for community-based individuals in a paid or volunteer capacity to be recognised for their contribution to the prevention of DFV through place-based activities and/or support provided to people who are escaping or have lived experience of DFV. The winner of category two will receive a $5,000 bursary to be used to continue their work in preventing and/or raising awareness of DFV.

For more information, please contact:

Dan Knowles, Media Advisor
Local Government Association of Queensland